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DHHR becomes three separate agencies


CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has officially transitioned to three separate agencies.

As of Jan. 1, 2024, there are three cabinet secretaries that oversee the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health Facilites.

“The transition has been a long time coming,” said Dr. Sherri Young who left her role as interim secretary of DHHR to become the secretary of the Department of Health. Young served in the interim role since
July 2023.

Dr. Cynthia Persily was named the secretary of the Department of Human Services and Michael Caruso was named the secretary of the new Department of Health Facilities.

The change comes after the state Legislature passed a bill in March 2023 to reorganize DHHR, contending the restructuring would make it more accountable. DHHR had been under scrutiny over how the enormous agency handles a range of issues, including foster care, child protective services and the developmentally disabled.

Young said all three secretaries are working to be more efficient.

“We’ve had several months to work together so that services wouldn’t be disrupted and so that our staff could be prepared,” she said. “We continue to communicate.”

Young previously served as the health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department during the COVID-19 pandemic before taking the job with the state.

“One thing we learned especially during the pandemic is that we can’t be one thing to everybody. We have to have boots on the ground. We have to have those partnerships delivering health care in the communities and also getting that feedback so that we know what the needs are,” she said.

As part of the transition, there is a new Office of Shared Administration, which now provides shared services from centralized units such as finance, human resources management, management information
services, and constituent services.

Young said she knows accountability is important and that all three departments will be under a microscope.

“We know that the Department of Health, at least with the Bureau for Public Health, things have not been paid in a timely fashion. If we have to back up the procurement process or any of the processes to get our grants paid on time, we’re going to do that,” she said.

Young has also been working to fill vacancies within the Bureau of Public Health in the last several months. She said most of the vacancies are nurses and social workers who are eligible for retirement within the next five years.

“What I’ve been doing from the Department of Health side is literally going through every single office and every single position that we have available, looking at the services that we offer as well as how can we make them more efficient,” she said.

Under the reorganization, the Department of Health now includes the Bureau for Public Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Center for Threat Preparedness, Health Care Authority, Office of Inspector General and Human Rights Commission.

The Department of Human Services now includes the Bureau for Behavioral Health, Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, Bureau for Family Assistance, Bureau for Medical Services, Bureau for Social Services and Office of Drug Control Policy.

The Department of Health Facilities now includes Hopemont Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital, John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center, Lakin Hospital, Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital, Welch Community Hospital and William R. Sharpe, Jr. Hospital.